A trip to the land of Qatar - where streets have no names.
Happy New Year everyone! As I've got 15 hours to spare while flying across the ocean and gazing at the sky, I decided to take advantage of air wifi and update you on my recent trip to Europe and Qatar. I will write a separate post on Europe when I get over my jet lag.
Although a lot of people claim that it's not a safe country, I can't fully agree with that. It all depends on where you are and who you hang out with. Qatar has plenty of stringent rules and laws and you have to follow them while holidaying there. Basically, you must stick to all the same rules that I had mentioned in my last post regarding Dubai. Qatar constantly competes with Dubai. Qatari people say that their land is the best while Dubis swear Dubai is far better. To be honest, both destinations are Muslim countries built on the desert, filled with extravagant 5* hotels, shops, restaurants, mosques and Souks - Middle Eastern markets with gold, herbs, dry fruit and so forth. There are very few parks and not a lot of nature to savour. The majority of parks and beaches are artificial. However, it's a stopover destination for me and I was eager to explore it. So, I discovered Qatari land since I had another week to spare. Dubai seems more international though. It became more accustomed to foreigners, whereas Qatari land is still unique and more mysterious.
People in Qatar consist of 15% of Qatari citizens and 85% of expats. The latter include all kinds of nationalities from all over the world. I've met people from Europe, Africa, America, the Middle East, Asia and Australia. Most of them aren't stopping over there, thery are only in transit. People seem to be friendly but since it's a Muslim country, men and women aren't equal. If you want to be safe in town, hire a male guide or even better, a bodyguard :)
Before you go:
1. Check if you need a visa.
2. Bring cash since ATMs may not work for you. The most popular currencies are USD and GBP. Forget AUD or other currencies here.
3. Don't bring any medicine without a prescription if you don't want to end up in jail. A lot of medications aren't allowed in this country. Don't bring painkillers, herbs, food or anything of the sort.
4. Dress appropriately when you are outside of your hotel. Cover your shoulders and knees.
5. Avoid drinking and smoking in public at all costs. It's against the law.
While you are there:
Check out the main landmarks / tourist spots but also the authentic, less developed parts of Qatar including:
- The Pearl
- Museum of Islamic Art
- the Carniche
- the Souks and the area around it which is less developed
- beaches in Qatar
- safari on the desert
Try some authentic, local food eg. at the market. Food is relatively cheap and the prices range from QRJ5 - 150 a meal.
Marvel at some amazingly designed architecture. It reminded me of all the Middle Eastern countries. The colours of the buildings, the triangle windows, the arches, the iconic shapes... there're beauty and magic to be found everywhere you go. Just look around and take it in slowly.
Use taxis or uber. Avoid public transport. Taxis are pretty cheap depending on the time of the day/night. Uber X is even cheaper but it ain't always safe and some drivers don't speak English. I had a few problems since the streets in Qatar have no names. It was hard to explain to uber drivers where I was at times.
Above all, stay safe and don't trust strangers. Someone told me that regardless of what I wear, I get attention from men and women everywhere. I don't notice though as I get immersed in the country and its culture instead. I'm grateful to my guide from Naples and a butler provided to me by the hotel who contributed to making me feel safer in Qatar.
I dont think I'll be back there anytime soon. While it was definitely a place worth seeing, I'm happy to be on the plane sailing across the ocean on my way to Melbourne.
The entrance to the Pearl surrounded by fancy shops, cars and other unnecessary things...
The Museum of Islamic Art
The iconic buildings around the Pearl
The Pearl, NYE